Panzanella, a combination of bread, tomatoes, olives and herbs all tossed with a good extra virgin olive oil and balsamic dressing. A simple, great, summer dish utilizing some stale bread and produce lingering in the fridge!
Panzanella is really a delicious dish using some stale bread and nice roasted tomatoes. The way the olive oil and balsamic gets absorbed in the bread and the sweet yet acidic flavor of the tomatoes, with hints of herbs is fantastic. This Roasted Tomato and Olive Panzanella is a great summer dish, with all its flavors and freshness.
I remember years ago the trend of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar poured into a plate and some bread on the side to dip into it was a popular and delicious start to a meal in many local restaurants. One in particular stands in my mind. It was Earls, a great contemporary place always pushing the envelope in culinary trends, along with a decor to the restaurant that was both comfortable and appealing to the eye. They served this beautiful in house baked herb focaccia, which was so delicious on its own. With the focaccia they had a nice plate of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The way the bread soaked up those rich and sweet acidic flavors was so good. I loved the richness of the oil slightly spiked with some balsamic and bite after bite into the bread oozing with deliciousness. I even reminisce about a time when I was working at an Italian store called Bianca Franca Super Marketa. Jim, the owner, would create this tomato and tuna salad with some great tasting onions all dressed in this flavorful dressing of olive oil from the oil packed tuna, vinegar, some oregano and salt and pepper. We would sit behind the deli counter and cut up a pagnotta (rustic crusty Italian bread). I would be dipping that bread into the bottom of my dish and eating those juicy tomatoes and tuna. Sheer delight these memories are, something so easy and quick, yet so flavorful and magnificent. That salad had so much flavor and the smells lingering in the air, pure richness. A kind of deconstructed panzanella it was.
In Italian tradition bread dipping is the norm, whether cleaning up a plate of pasta with leftover tomato sauce or a great salad with leftover dressing always a sign that the meal was both enjoyed and a success. Italians being the ingenious inventors they are came up with a salad that would be both fresh and wonderful, and also resourceful as it utilizes stale bread, with seasonal ingredients like tomatoes, onions, basil, etc, and they call it panzanella. A humble summer dish, panzanella, that the Tuscans say is from their region, but one that you will find in many parts of central Italy, the differences in the regions are on the ingredients and the use of the bread, broke into pieces, or the whole slice.
Oven fired up, let’s create this Roasted Tomato and Olive Panzanella!
To create this panzanella, we grabbed a good crusty rustic bread from a vendor at the city market 104 st, along with those juicy sweet acidic grape tomatoes, the basic ingredients of this dish. You could use some leftover 3-4 day old bread and clean up the vegetable crisper. We had no leftovers as we are diligent in not wasting anything, so we had to pick up the ingredients, which was no chore at all as we love the fresh market experience. What is not to love being outside on a beautiful summer day strolling the streets, watching people’s eyes lite up at great food, aromatics, samplings, and some local artists live sounds resounding in the back drop, did I mention samples, oh yeah, lol.
We saw this recipe in a summer food magazine, “Better Homes and Gardens” and it caught our attention immediately. The look of the tomatoes nicely roasted, glistening with that glossy richness of the oil. The balsamic vinegar floating on moments of olive oil, like it was splashed on it by an artist. The herbs vibrant and alive, and those bread morsels nicely dressed and toasted to give us some crunch, yet softened and flavored some more by the juices of the tomatoes, bliss in a bowl.
The first thing to creating this panzanella is to roast the tomatoes until nice and wrinkly. And the bread, dressed in olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted till crispy and golden in color. Then in goes some more fresh herbs, olives and dressing. It is that easy!
The first bites reveal the nice caramelization of the tomatoes and juices. That pungent flavor of the kalamata olives mingling with the freshness of garden grown basil and oregano, the cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, organic of course, rich and earthy. Balsamic cream reduction, the dichotomy of sweet and acidic at the same time, the brininess of the sea salt pops in your mouth and a bite from the black pepper. All this oozing from the bread and that crust crunchy flavorful. This dish is great for those backyard dinners. A celebration of summer all on a plate, shared with family and friends. Life doesn’t get better than this. So from our kitchen here at Sugarlovespices.
Song of the day: “Call me in the afternoon” by Half Moon Run. I just can’t get enough of this song. It always gets my foot tapping and my hands drumming!
- 2 cups cherry and/or grape tomatoes
- 2 slices rustic, crusty bread, cubed
- 2-3 Tbsp cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 2 Tbsp cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar reduction
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp oregano and basil leaves, chopped
- Position one oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange tomatoes in a single layer in the prepared pan.
- Place bread in a bowl, drizzle 2-3 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper over bread pieces. Toss to coat and arrange them on a second baking sheet in a single layer.
- Roast tomatoes on upper rack and bread on lower rack, about 20 for the bread, tossing it once, 25 minutes for the tomatoes or until the skin begins to split and wrinkle, gently stirring once.
- In the meantime prepare the dressing, combining the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a little ramekin, whisking lightly.
- Add bread, olives and dressing in the pan with the tomatoes and gently toss to coat and mix. Sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve.
I f you want to know more about the health benefits of kalamata olives, read here:
More recipes featuring the wonderful seasonal cherry tomatoes? Here they are:
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